The Sunday Salon

This week I read The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. Usually when I finish a book, I really enjoy the sense of completion from striking another title off my TBR list and moving on to the next. But turning the last page on this one was similar to having dinner at a beautiful restaurant with your closest friends and being forced to leave the warm happy atmosphere too soon.  I wasn’t ready.  I wanted to linger. 

Then, starting the next book- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao– was like walking away from that beautiful restaurant in a contented little fog and distractedly stepping off the curb to cross the street, only to be hit by a car careening wildly- wait! make that a van, one that’s full of Spanish speaking illegals.  Where am I?  Who are these strangers and what are they talking about?  “Jarring” is the best way to describe it.  

Some English words on the first three pages of Oscar Wao that I probably should look up to be certain of the meaning: 







 And some Spanish words on those same pages that I don’t know or can’t guess the meaning of from the context: 


Anciano sanmacorisano




I’ve never read a book with a dictionary on my lap, much less an English-Spanish dictionary, but maybe I should use one this time.  Although now that I’m three or four chapters into it, the unfamiliar words are bothering me less and less.  I’m growing accustomed to the rhythm of the book.

What about you?  Do you look up words as you read, or do you skip over them?  Do a multitude of foreign words and place names bother you or do you get used to it?

Happy Sunday!  Enjoy the long weekend!  

22 Responses

  1. I’m about half way through The School of Essential Ingredients and I’m loving it so far.

  2. I have Oscar Wao on the pile for February/March and am really looking forward to it. Perhaps I should pick up a Spanish/English dictionary now?

  3. Oscar is one that is NOT on my TBR list. I’ve heard too many mixed reviews on it.

    I do look stuff up whille reading but I do so online… LOL. babe.

  4. I don’t look words up but might have to make an exception to the Spanish since there’s zero hope for me to get that from context.

  5. I loved The School of Essential Ingredients! I thought it was a beautifully written character study….just lovely.

  6. I loved Oscar Wao but I didn’t look up the words– it IS like a wave washing over you again and again. There is no doubt it’s a challenging read, but it’s absolutely worth it. I would not have had any clue about Dominican and Dominican-American culture if I hadn’t. I guess some would say why bother, but if you are willing to take the different voices as they come (different people speak in the chapters– there isn’t really one narrator) then it’s really, really worth the effort to hear about a world so different from my own. Using a dictionary would certainly have added to my understanding, but I think only in nuanced ways.

  7. I keep a list of words to look up later. I write down the word and the sentence in which it is found. Later, I write down the definition and pronunciation.

  8. I am so glad you enjoyed School of Essential Ingredients. I am really looking forward to this one!

  9. Once again I have now requested a book from the library based on your wonderful review! I am very anxious to begin reading The School of Essential Ingredients.

  10. I can’t wait to read it.

  11. I almost never look words up while I’m reading. I usually try to guess from context or think about whether I understand what’s going on without knowing the exact meaning of a word. I find looking in a dictionary a little too jarring. I do have Oscar Wao on my TBR pile; that’s a question I’ll have to consider again!

  12. I just finished The School of Essential Ingredients last weekend and felt just like you did. It was excellent. I then launched myself into some non-fiction about the Holocaust…er….also a kind of jarring transition.

    I’m not much for looking up words as I go. It bothers me not knowing a word, but it bothers me even more to interrupt the flow of the story to go find a dictionary. Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly ambitious I’ll write them down and look them up later, but I don’t even do that as much as I probably should!

  13. I bookmark with a blank index card and write things down as I go. Look them all up online later. Hate to disrupt the read.

  14. I have a tendency to just keep reading when I come across a word I don’t know these days ,but occasionally, if my husband is handy, I will ask him or look on the computer or in a dictionary if one is handy and I’m extra curious.

  15. I write the words and their page numbers on my bookmark, so I can add them to my Vocab page, but I only very rarely look things up until after I’ve finished the book.

    As for the spanish, the second one is “the old guy from san macor”, and the third one… “carajo” is a curseword that gets used as “hell” as well as the F-word, so carajito is a diminutive pejorative, probably equivalent to “little f**ker”. Haven’t heard of the other three words.

  16. Thanks for all the comments!

    Kathy, wasn’t it great? I really need to write that review. The book is being released this week.

    Rebecca, I read some more “Oscar” last night. I don’t know. I’m getting the gist of it without the dictionary, but it might help to know what the Spanish words mean. Although a lot of them are slang (I think) and probably wouldn’t exist in the dictionary anyway!

    Ti- I’m reading it for book club. I’m not sure I would have picked it up on my own. I use when I’m online but when I’m reading I’m usually curled up on my bed, not in front of my computer – no laptop for me 😦

    Kristen- I had 5 years of Spanish in high school and college (quite a long time ago) but can’t make sense of a lot of the words. I can translate some of it (for instance, I know “muchacho del diablo” is child of the devil, or devil boy) but most of it I don’t know.

    Michele, wasn’t it just gorgeously written? Yeah, I need to get the review done today. Somehow. (Kids are home from school).

    underthecovers- if you are now interested in all things Dominican, you might enjoy the author Edwidge Danticat. Her style is completely different, but her writing is magnificent. If you haven’t read her before, I would suggest Breath, Eyes, Memory. It’s Beautiful. Oh, and that is exactly how I’m reading “Oscar”.. just letting it flow over me. Nice analogy!

    Debbie, that little list in my post is just from the first 3 pages!! I can’t imagine writing down every word in this book to look up later. I’d never do it. Now, in another book, where there might be one or two words in the entire book that I’m unfamiliar with, it would make sense to do that. And I have done that. But with this book, there are just too many!!

    Jill and Molly, you’ll love it. Please come back and tell me what you think of it once you’ve read it!! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Sher, not sure if you mean ‘Oscar’ or The School of EI, but either way, can’t wait to discuss it (them) with you!!

    Meghan, I’m the same way, however, with this book you just don’t get a lot in the way of context clues.

    Megan, yes! It was excellent. Following it up by the Holocaust- yeah, that would be jarring too! Which book are you reading @ the Holocaust?

    Frances, that’s a really good idea! I’d have filled that card up by now, I’m sure.

    Lit. Feline, Oooo, good idea asking the Hub. I wouldn’t have to get up from my comfy chair!

    Fyrefly, oh no!! I wonder if I should take the words down!! Little f**cker! Thanks for the translation! I had a feeling a lot of it was slang.

  17. LOL, Lisa…I have Oscar Wao on my TBR pile and I am not terribly excited to read it. I hate looking up words while I read. Sometimes I will do it if I cannot figure it out by the context…but it really breaks my reading rhythm…and if I have to keep stopping to look up words, I more than likely will stop reading the book eventually!

  18. I’m glad you enjoyed School of Essential Ingredients at least, that is one of my next books on my TBR pile.

  19. […] my white bread suburban soccer mom ears didn’t catch all of it.  As someone said in the comments HERE, I had to let the book and it’s language wash over me, and while there were words on every single […]

  20. […] my white bread suburban soccer mom ears didn’t catch all of it. As someone said in the comments HERE, I had to let the book and it’s language wash over me, and while there were words on every single […]

  21. […] my white bread suburban soccer mom ears didn’t catch all of it. As someone said in the comments HERE, I had to let the book and it’s language wash over me, and while there were words on every single […]

  22. “Dique” is a Spanish slang term that means, basically, ‘yeah right.’

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